I’ve always been an extremely passionate person. When I was a kid my passions were sports and animals. If I did something, I did it with every inch of my being. I’m now a mother of three and, true to my personality, I have to be the best mother I have it in me to be.
When I was pregnant for the first time, my mom asked me if it was a boy can we plan a bris. I replied with “No” but that we could just do the baby naming part at home. She was a little concerned and asked if we would circumcise him. I let her know that I wanted it done in a hospital. I didn’t want to be stressed out or upset on the day that I was to be celebrating my child.
A few of my thoughts back then: He has to look like his dad. He will get made fun of. He will not be able to clean himself properly. He will have trouble finding a partner. He will thank me later when he is an adult. I am Jewish. It is medically necessary. Well thank you god for blessing me with a beautiful baby GIRL at this time in my life.
Twelve months later we were expecting again and we learned we were having a boy. Immediately the thought of circumcision came back to me. I remembered my cousin’s bris. I remembered wine being put on a cloth and given to him to suck on. I remembered my grandfather holding his legs down. I remembered the look on my aunt’s face. She was visibly upset and shaken. The day didn’t seem like a celebration of a new life, but something else. Something was wrong here. Every single woman in attendance had a twisted look of horror on her face during the cutting. After, it was bagels and lox and everyone was all happy again.
By the time I learned I’d be having a son, I had met many mothers who kept their sons intact and I was open to hearing why they chose not to circumcise. I started researching, except I didn’t really have to. It took me 2 minutes into one video (“Child Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital” by Ryan McAllister, Ph.D.) to realize something I had known all along—circumcision is wrong.
I started obsessively posting my findings on my Facebook wall. I lost many friends and sparked many arguments from those who had their sons cut years earlier. Little did I know my husband Stephen would be reading these. I was shocked since he isn’t much of a social media guy. One day I approached him and said, “I picked out his name want to hear it oh and we aren’t circumcising him.” He replied, “Okay I figured.” He told me he had been reading the articles I posted and that he agreed with everything.
Now to tell my family. I gently gave them articles to read and we openly discussed every aspect of the argument. It wasn’t that I needed my parents approval not to cut my sons penis, it was that I wanted them to understand, I wanted them to see what I saw; genital cutting for any reason is wrong. They both easily saw the light and would later be in my corner for any argument that arose, and of course it did.
Gunnar was born at home in a birth tub in my bedroom. He was beautiful and amazing. The phone calls started coming, when is the bris? What can we bring? I had to tell family friends that there wouldn’t be one. I heard many responses: “He will give HIV to everyone.” “He will get made fun of.” “He won’t be considered Jewish.” These comments didn’t hurt or concern me. I had armed myself with education, confidence, and a beautiful baby boy.
But the ignorant comments sparked something inside of me. It ignited a fire in me to protect baby boys. When I say protect baby boys I mean it turned me into an activist, or intactivist if you will. I had to stop this barbaric procedure from being legal in the United States. I could no longer remain quiet.
So many little boys die every year because of this procedure. They are maimed for life; left with a scarred or minimally functioning penis. I almost did this to my son. How could I have believed all of the lies I had been fed for years believing that this is okay, normal, and just a part of being a boy? I wanted my son to have all of the sexual pleasure god and nature had given him. I wanted him to be able to pee for the rest of his life without a scar staring back at him, or even worse complications. Just like a tattoo, or a body piercing, I felt circumcision was a body modification that only he should choose, if he really wanted to, as an adult.
I was bat mitzvah’d at the age of 13, I studied the torah and attended temple regularly growing up. My father was raised Orthodox and grew up in a very orthodox town.
My passion took me to Manhattan exactly two weeks after my third child (my second daugher) Jagger was born. My mother, my best friend and I protested circumcision in Times Square with the Bloodstained Men. It was such an eye opening experience, one that I hope to have many more times throughout my life.
NicoleKatz-Lahey is 29 year old Long Island Native, wife, and mother. Her passions include her natural parenting and family blog, photography, volunteer firefighting, and kids fashion. Follow her on Instagram @ready.set.chaos.
Your father was reared Orthodox. Nevertheless, he and your mother agreed with your choice of no bris. Your husband agreed too. You have much to be thankful about, and I note that you thank God with a lower case g.
"I wanted him to be able to pee for the rest of his life without a scar staring back at him…"
I grew up in a place and time where at least 95% of middle class white boys were circumcised (before 1980, many USA urban maternity wards circumcised all newborn boys by default). But circumcision was never mentioned; it was truly an American Secret, as Francelle wax puts it. A fortiori, the ring scar was never mentioned in adolescent conversation or in print. I first heard of that scar when I was a junior in college, from an offhand remark by a Latino friend who was intact. It took social media this century for the ring scar to become more or less common knowledge. That circumcision can detract from sexual function and enjoyment, remains uncommon knowledge, because Polite America refuses to take anecdotal evidence seriously, or to conduct thoughtful studies of how circumcision affects sex. But Polite America cannot keep the lid on forever, so that the truth will out eventually.
Great read. Being Jewish myself I hear misconceptions constantly from my own family and friends about circumcision. Surrounding yourself with like minded friends and researching is your best armour.
Bless you for being a wonderful pair of parents in the decision you made for your son…… he is, indeed a lucky boy to have such wonderful parents.
I am a 75 year old English man born into a C of E family in 1941. Shortly after my birth I was the victim of RIC. …… All because my parents considered themselves to be Gentry and like the Royals of that era, new born boys were circumcised.
As a small boy,and onwards into my teens and early 20s I suffered from one episode of urinary infection after another, and because of the damage caused by a very tight cut circumcision, very painful erections.
In that era and well into the 1970s, sexual matters were never discussed or mentioned, but by this time I had realised what had been done to me and the dis-service circumcision had done me. …… roll on another 35 years and I discovered on the internet that I could restore enough of my penis's shaft skin by stretching the skin and tensioning it to form and restore at least some of what was taken away in the RIC. Now, at the age of 75, I have about 60% more feeling in my penis than I've had all my married life!
So bless you both for the wonderful job you are doing, firstly for your son and secondly, in spreading the word to get genital mutilation stopped.
"I respect religion; however, my religious practices end where my son’s body begins." I hope someone can create a beautiful meme of this great statement! Right on, Nicole! Another hero!
You are so brave! you retur me my faith in the humanity… I pround of you and people like you!
According to the Torah removal of the foreskin is not a requirement, producing a drop of blood is sufficiant to perform a bris. I come from a family of orthodox Jews and they (and the Rabbis) are all happy with this instaed of the full removal.
I chose not to circumcise my son as well….I researched and researched and could not find any reason to cut his foreskin. That was 14 years ago. In the beginning of my research, my husband protested a bit with the argument that our son would not "look like him"….My response was that by the time our son noticed, if they were comparing penises, we had a much bigger problem to address. Ha. BAM, argument won.
Wonderful post, thank you for your courage. I lost dear, close friends due to this issue but will never cease to offer loving education about this practice that must stop.
Having witnessed Bris of my 3 boys, I can totally understand the cons, but isn't it interesting, that the "research" was conveniently conducted, gathering information to support ONLY the cons of the Jewish (!) practice of circumcision? Lack of information leads to ignorance, and based on responses to this blog, there are so many misinformed (ignorant?) people, who are probably convienced they are enlighted.